At Ehlers Estate, a 43-acre estate in St. Helena in the Napa Valley, the charitable efforts are a French-American collaboration. The estate, originally founded in 1886 by Bernard Ehlers, is held in trust by the Leducq Foundation, a not-for-profit international foundation with offices in Paris and Boston that has given more than $216 million in cardiovascular research grants over the past 13 years to scientists in 16 countries.
The foundation was created by Jean Leducq and his wife Sylviane. Leducq, a French entrepreneur was admitted to a hospital in France in the mid-70s for a suspected heart attack and was later treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he was the beneficiary of the then-revolutionary technology of coronary artery bypass surgery.
Leducq, who died in 2002, re-established the Ehlers Estate in 1985 believing it was capable of producing wines equal to Bordeaux. The winery only uses grapes grown on its own estate, all of which are certified organic.
Some fans come to the winery knowing about Ehlers' heart connection, others drink it for a while before realizing the heart logo on the bottle has extra meaning, says Morrisey.
Ehlers rose is made of cabernet franc, a red wine grape, and bears no resemblance to the oceans of cheap pink stuff that have given blush wines reason to, well, blush. The grapes are pressed gently and the juice allowed to stay in contact with the skins just long enough to pick up the color but not long enough to pick up the tannins that would take away from the fruity freshness of the wine.
Morrisey jokes that he spends "way, way too much time," babysitting the wine as it's made. Then comes release on Valentine's and "it's long sold out by Fourth of July."
It's a labor of love, says Morrisey, one that comes complete with a romantic inspiration.
"My wife and I just love European-style dry rose," he says, "and she's a very demanding customer."